Thursday, September 6, 2012

Philosophical and Constitutional framework of government: Salient features and value premises; Constitutionalism; Political culture; Bureaucracy and democracy; Bureaucracy and development.

Before we begin this article, many congratulations to all those who have qualified for the UPSC Civil Services Mains exam this year. All the best for your endeavours. May success be bestowed upon you as honest civil servants are the immediate need of the hour right now.

And to all those who could not make it this time, do not give up hope and keep going because Perseverance is an essential trait for Success.

To those who plan to appear in the future, good decision and wish you all the very best.


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This article will discuss all that is needed to understand the Philosophical framework and Constitutional framework on which the Government is based and within which it functions.

Terms to understand before proceeding:

1) Framework - An essential supporting structure of a building, vehicle, or object / A basic structure underlying a system, concept, or text / A system of rules,ideas or beliefs that is used to plan / decide or execute something.

2) Philosophical - Relating to the study of the use of reason in understanding the nature of a thing(s) / system / belief,etc.

3) Constitutional : How something is formed from different parts(Constituents) / Set of political principles by which a State or organisation is governed,especially in regards to the rights of the people governed.

4) State - There is no unanimous definition of State. However,
The state has four essential elements:
  1. Population - They together form the government and all functions of the govt. are for them so without them there is no foundation for anything else.
  2. Territory - Definite territory that includes lands,mountains,forests,water bodies,etc.
  3. Government - Legislature,Executive and Judiciary.
  4. Sovereignty- Vested in the people of India.
All of them together form the State and no one can be taken out.

As one can easily comprehend from the above meaning of  the term "Constitutional", that all aspects/parts of a State or an Organisation / System are to be based or governed by a set of political principles that are enlisted in its Constitution.

Therefore, the Constitution is the framework / foundation for all aspects of polity and governance and their functioning emerges from the principles of its Constitution. The Constitution of India elaborately specifies the problems of relations between Union and States,problems relating to public services,special classes,SCs and STs.

It also elaborates a list of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy. All of these together direct the functioning of all organs of State and whenever in doubt,one has to revert to the founding philosophy and principles of the constitution as envisaged by our freedom fighters to understand one's duties better. Therefore,the Constitution is the source of all legislation,policy as well as executive,military and judicial action in a country. They all function upon the framework of the Constitution and its philosophy which is detailed and enshrined in the preamble of the Constitution India and elaborated in the Directive Principles Of State Policy.

In order to understand the purpose and philosophy of the Constitution as well as the Philosophical framework of India and its government, one must tread into the minds of our constitution framers and freedom fighters. And to do that one can simply read and understand the Preamble of the Indian Constitution which is also called the philosophy and key of the Indian Constitution -
where words like sovereign,socialist,secular,democratic republic,socio-economic-political Justice,Liberty and freedom of expression,Equality of status and opportunity,promotion of Fraternity and Dignity,Unity and Integrity are the cardinal principles of the constitution and beautifully describe the noble ideas, spirit and conscience of our Constitution and its framers' minds as well as how the future caretakers/governments of India should carry out their duties and functions and last but not the least, it depicts the way India should be in all its glory.

 The Indian Constitution is a remarkable document. It is the most lengthy and detailed constitutional document in the world as it has borrowed most of its provisions from all known constitutions of the world so in such a way that it is suitable to existing conditions and needs of the country and also it has embodied modified results of judicial decisions of other countries to minimise any uncertainty..It occupies an important place in the constitutional history of the world for its unique combination of both rigidity as well as flexibility and quasi- federal(Not completely federal) political setup. That's why it is termed as 'sui-generis' meaning Unique.

 India has a written constitution which means that all provisions are laid down in black and white and follow a process if to be changed or repealed or updated. Britain has an unwritten constitution where provisions are based on conventions and traditions of land instead of a detailed comparative study of a written constitution.

Indian Constitution is seen as an example of meta (underlying definition) policy of State governance based on the noble ideals of democratic governance. Its framework provides for an arrangement that is democratic in character and where the Rule of Law is seen as the cardinal principle. The other cardinal principles as well as ideals of a modern State can be seen highlighted in the Preamble(discussed above). Indian Administration could be seen as an example of a well organised people oriented administration where the popular will or sovereign which is the people are considered as the supreme authority  guiding all policies in the country. The Indian Political arrangement is provided with the unique feature of a Union arrangement with a federal setup.

Parliamentary form of government here is adopted from the United Kingdom. A Parliamentary democracy system of government exists at both levels that is Centre and States. In this system,government / political executive is responsible to the parliament and not to the President. It has a strong Centre and vests the constituent and residual powers of legislation coded in lists to the central legislature which is the parliament. Here the executive is part of legislature and so conflicts are less likely to arise.

The Indian Constitution as mentioned above is commendable in its unique combination of flexibility and rigidity in legislative process that is adding and amending to the Constitution. That's why it is also known as quasi federal because a federal system has a very rigid constitution. And in a federal system states have completely autonomy and function with no interference at all from the centre and also every state possesses its own constitution and citizenship. So, coming back to the Indian constitutions quasi federal framework, it is only a few provisions of it that require a ratification by the states legislatures and even then only half of them need to do so. The rest of the constitution is amended by a simple majority of the Union Parliament as in general legislation. One can see the flexibility of our constitution as since independence it has been amended 97 times already ( Constitutional Amendment Acts).

The Constitution in its very first article pronounces India as a union of states and article 3 specifies the supremacy of the Union where the states could be altered viz. their boundaries and their names,etc. So the states do have a federal character in regards to the State list and the subjects listed in them and decision making on the same is instituted in their level which is democratic decentralisation and also stabilises these states machineries.

Article 5 of the Indian Constitution then proceeds to detail citizenship followed by Fundamental Rights in Part 3 (article 14-32) that guarantee various types of rights to the people of the country and also how to enforce them if violated and is adapted from the Bill of Rights of the American Constitution.

Part 4 of Indian Constitution then goes on to describe such principles which could be seen as directions and integral to the process of policy making in the country and are known as Directive Principles Of State Policy,an idea taken from Ireland's constitution. The DPSP are not enforceable by law(which means that if not followed by the State in policy making process then one cannot approach the Judiciary to get it enforced). So these guidelines for making policies are to be applied in the policy making process as long as the government has the resources to do so. The importance of DPSP is that it cannot be ignored especially in a welfare, as it helps in achieving a socialistic and people oriented modern State that has always been the cherished dream of our country's founding fathers.

Indian Constitution's provision for separation of powers is an integral and cardinal principle followed at both Union / Centre and state levels and the three organs of legislature,executive and judiciary have been established with sufficiently exclusive domains so that a constitutional deadlock does not occur where all are interfering in each other's work and no progress happens ultimately leading to a breakdown of each and every institution of the country.

And Independent judiciary also derives its power of Judicial review from the constitution although not explicitly but impliedly from article 13. India has a single integrated system of courts for the Union and States that administer both the Union and state laws and the apex or head body is the Supreme Court of India. Below the Supreme courts are the high Courts and below the High Courts are the subordinate courts. Judges are appointed by the President under his warrant and seal and to ensure their independence their terms and conditions of service as well as removal are regulated and directed by the Constitution. There is a special process of removal through a special majority(majority of total membership of that house and by majority of not less than 2/3 members of that house present and voting) of each house of parliament on grounds of proved misbehaviour or incapacity,which is not easy. The Judiciary through the power of judicial review can pronounce upon the constitutional validity of acts of public authorities both executive as well as the legislature. It protects,guarantees and enforces the fundamental rights of the country's people and maintains federal equilibrium.

The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment to the constitution in principle has provided for the establishment and recognition to democratic local self governing institutions of Panchayat and Municipalities at the local level which are the grassroots of governance. During the drafting of the Constitution of India, Panchayati Raj Institutions were placed in the non-justiciable part of the Constitution, the Directive Principles of State Policy, as Article 40. The Article read 'the State shall take steps to organise village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government'. However, no worthwhile legislation was enacted either at the national or state level to implement it.
In the four decades since the adoption of the Constitution, panchayat raj institutions have travelled from the non-justiciable part of the Constitution to one where, through a separate amendment, a whole new status has been added to their history.

The Constitution also provides for special provisions for the underprivileged and backward viz. SC,ST and OBC. Elaborate provisions have been given to various constitutional authorities guaranteeing autonomy and ensures their smooth functioning as per the rights given to them in the Indian Constitution.

Emergency provisions of the Constitution were added in the light of the German Constitution.

Constitutionalism is an abstract term and is used to denote the spirit and quality of the Constitution. An example that can be cited to explain it in detail can be that of a patriot, a patriot is one who loves his country and patriotism is an abstract term denoting the feeling of a patriot towards his country universally and generally. Similarly,a Constitution is an entity/physical object whereas constitutionalism is the feeling / abstractness of  that constitution residing in policies made by that particular country,the code of conduct followed by citizens and the political leaders while carrying out their functions both professionally as well as professionally,etc. all abiding by the constitution while doing so and imbibing a feeling of constitutionalism inside them,that is a love towards or an adherence towards a system of constitutional ideals and directions as well as government.
Therefore, Constitutionalism is a complex of ideas, attitudes, and patterns of behavior elaborating the principle that the authority of government derives from and is limited by a body of fundamental law.
The Indian Constitutionalism is a thought that provides for an arrangement where the rule of law is seen as the guiding principle for managing the State.
It evolved as a thought in USA,France and other nations where people questioned their governments for their arbitrary behaviour and thus the idea was formed of a govt. limited by a set of rules.

Constitutionalism has been seen as having various essential aspects as its core premises which are:
1) Sovereignty - It puts forward democratic values where the source of power is seen vested with the people and popular will and not in the hands of a few elites / politicians or corporates.

2) Writteness of the Constitution: A properly codified constitution builds constitutionalism as a feeling among everyone as it directs the people in power as well as administrators in a specified and proper way so that no arbitrariness is practiced anywhere.

3) Separation of Powers between the three organs of government which are legislature,executive and judiciary.

4) Consensus of agreeableness: The Constitution provides for the State to be guided by the popular will and good always and also to respect and agree to the institutional legal structures so that social conformity is achieved as prescribed by the Constitution.

5) Entrenchment: Total reject of arbitrariness practiced by public officials and leaders beyond their powers and rules prescribed. And secularism is practiced to maintain unity in diversity.


1) Prescriptive view - It advocates the incorporation of features which have evolved as the core value premises of the constitution. Under it the attempt has been to bring up such a philosophy that would enable and guarantee such an administrative arrangement  where publicness / transparency of all governmental functioning becomes the cardinal principle to be followed. Certain values like Rule Of Law,Writteness of the Constitution,consensus,separation of powers,etc can be counted.

2) Descriptive view - It provides for the historical struggle that has been there in the powers which ultimately resulted in certain core premises and principles of the constitution. Under it administrative arrangement of the State is analysed in terms of the changes incorporated and the reasons/revolts behind them are also analysed.

 Political culture refers to the political psychology,values and attitude of a country / nation or a sub groups reaction towards their political leaders / political system, different political changes and public officials and their legitimacy.
It is not affected by different groups having different ideologies as even such groups can share the same political culture.  People of a society share a common human nature like emotional drives,intellectual capacities and moral perspectives and this expresses itself in the form of certain values,beliefs and emotional attitudes which get transmitted from one generation to another with lesser or greater changes / modifications and that defines the political situation in which political action takes place.
India has a multiple political culture due variety in traditions,tribalism,primordialism,religion influences,caste,traditions and conventions,etc existing in different parts of it.

Almond and Powell has discussed Political Culture in regards to the following three dimensions:
i) Cognitive Orientations - Implying knowledge accurate or otherwise.
ii) Affection Orientations - Implying feelings of attachment,involvement,rejection in regards to political objects.
iii) Evaluative orientations - Implying judgements and opinions about a political system.

Almond and Finer analysed Political culture from the perspective of the participation that the society allows in the political process.

Almond and Verba have given a 3 dimensional view of Political culture :
i) Parochial political culture - Is present in those societies where specialisation does not exist and only one  or two institutions are authoritative regarding all functions of that society and only one arch ruler is there who heads that institution thus having hegemony and unfettered power. People in such a society are not educated and informed about the mechanism and even if they have it is insufficient to form any opinion. And so the rule or dictatorship of the one ruler continues unopposed.

ii) Subject political Culture - Is present in such societies that were under colonial power at some point in time. Here two types of people's attitudes towards political system prevails,one of absolute subordination and one of absolute revolt at different points in time.

iii) Participant Political culture -  Is present in such societies having a high level of development and people in it have sufficient awareness and knowledge regarding their rights and duties and thus, play an active role in the discharge of functions. This type of a culture is practiced in India to quite an extent.

Robert Dahl has bestowed upon Political culture the title of the single most important factor that explains different patterns of political opposition:
i) Orientation of problem solving - Whether the opposition is interested in being rational and pragmatic in solving the issues raised.
ii) Orientation to collective actions - Whether the opposition is cooperative or not in discharge of functions of itself or others.
iii) Orientation to political system - Whether the opposition is active/passive or alienates itself.
iv) Orientation towards other people - Whether the opposition is full of tests or not.

Talcott Parsons look to find out the role of predispositions of people like historical memories,norms,emotions,symbols,etc. towards political actions  Their studies in Political culture have been done using two traditional approaches:
i) Individualistic Approach - It examines the values and attitudes of individuals through some technique of survey or feedback obtained from respondents(people). It is a direct method but limitations are that the respondents may not be able to express their feelings at many times. Further, the questionnaire itself may be so designed as to eliminate the political view of the people. The feelings mentioned by the people also may lead to all sorts of understandings and be very subjective.

ii) Institutional Approach - Involves documents analysis to discern collective behaviour of political institutions. It pursues the following three dimensions:
a) Academic deliberation to surface features of constitution,political structure and legislative framework.
b) Analysis of the Geographical and social operators in the State.
c) Analysis of historical events that have shaped political views.


1) Traditional Political Culture - Where the political system and people's attitude towards it are influenced by primordial characters and conventions / traditions.

2) Modern Political culture - Where the political system and people's attitudes towards it are influenced by constitution,rule of law,Independent Judiciary,Liberalism,duly elected body of public bureaucracy as an efficient instrument to enforce the law.

In India there exists an amalgamation of both living in confrontation and cooperation.  Like bureaucracy is there but it functions keeping in mind the conventions and traditions of the society. Reservation system in politics is based on caste and tribe division. And the constitution spells out the rest that consists of modern political culture.

 1) Strengths - It helps in providing a comprehensive analysis to the part of political science dealing with political aspirations and people living in the State.
It links the beliefs,attitudes and value of the people in the State with the political system of the State.
It helps bridge gaps of philosophy since it deals with human psychosis that could not be explained by other principles.
It has encouraged political scientists to take into account the social and cultural factors in their analysis for the purpose of better framework of their policies and connect between different societies.
It helps in gaining a better view of human behaviour towards political arrangement in different societies.
It provides a conceptual basis that facilitates forecasting to an extent.

2) Limitations  - Its findings are considered to have subjective aspects in its conclusions as it is dealing with factors like human emotions,feelings,perceptions,etc.
It has been observed that in the studies of Political culture there is always a risk that researchers may neglect certain factors in order to achieve validation of their hypothesis.
Diversity in society may create problems in deriving conclusions.
Embodiment of the feelings/perception may not be verbally in the desired direction.

It has been considered by some theorists that Bureaucracy and Democracy are two opposing ideologies. Democracy is associated with free will and self control whereas Bureaucracy has been considered as formal and rule bound.

So in both,academic as well as literature they are seen as anti-thetical approaches.
Democracy governance is based on the integral premise of control by people and expression of their will is seen as the core thought backing the execution of functions. Democratic institutions are considered responsive to the wishes of the public and attempts to arrange those preferences in order to give a positive outcome to its citizens.

Bureaucracy on the other hand is conceptualised as being typically legalistic and largely coded mechanism indifferent to the people's wishes and emphasising purely on legal framework.

Democracy has been seen as one of the most significant philosophy and value of the modern State arrangement as it is seen as a guarantee for the policies to be oriented towards the public at large and the resources in the State to be employed as per priorities set by the people. In a democratic setup to have a specialised Bureaucratic machinery appears paradoxical and its observed that the two have opposing elements. The presence of Bureaucracy is democratic arrangement has been questioned and studies have been made to establish the reasons for such an existence and the reasonability behind the existence.

At first sight, it appears that the complicity in society and the aim to have a high degree of speciality in a State somewhere must have necessitated the discharge of functions by specialist Bureaucracy. Various studies have been attempted to understand the comprehensional as well as the paradoxical aspect of the two.

Caplin in his studies in 2007 produced that Bureaucracy shall be required in the exercise of State function as people out of their pure democratic will may select inconsistent goals which may not be possible to be applied practically.

Richard Rose in 1991 observed that a linkage between voting and policy choices in conventional democracies may not be as clear as what most of the democrats may like to believe. Relationship between Bureaucracy and Democracy has been seen both supporting and opposing. The relationship between the two have been shown paradoxical because Democracy is free will while Bureaucracy champions the cause of pre established structure. It has been observed that an effective Democracy shall require an efficient Bureaucracy for attainment of the goal determined in a Democratic manner. Similarly, an efficient Bureaucracy in order to be effective requires directions coming from people's will so that its relevance in the society could be validated. The thought has surfaced the necessity of such an arrangement where the complimentary aspect of the two gets reinforced and the policy process in a State could be effective and efficient in its functioning.

It has been observed that these two aspects of the government may appear anti thetical on face,but both of them are necessary for providing effective and responsive governance. The responsiveness of the Democratic government is required to balance with impartiality and predictability assumed to reside with the Bureaucratic institutions. Likewise Democratic process is seen important in conferring legitimacy to the functioning of the Bureaucratic arrangement. Democracy provides for value of participation which is seen as a highly significant. An important trend has surfaced where association with a political party has been on the decrease and the representative democracy has been facing some sort of disinterest and alienation from the side of the people. In the democratic arrangement where involvement of people in the political process has been seen limited to casting votes during elections, disinterest and alienation have been very high. Under such societies people are not able to see some meaningful expression in the process of participation and for this reason they develop a feeling of disinterest,alienation or helplessness about the system.

Participation at the execution level thus has been seen as an important mechanism through which people could be introduced back into the system and Bureaucracy and citizens could be seen as a collective entity for this purpose.

Further the linkage between Bureaucracy and Democracy has been seen as necessary in a multi group situation transaction. The new philosophical paradigms have suggested achieving a balanced relationship between the formal Bureaucracy and the will of the people.

Goodin in his studies of 2004 has suggested for an arrangement of output democracy where establishment of such arrangement has been recommended through which delivery could be facilitated. Goodin has observed that there shall be a mechanism where conventional good of Democracy gets the directional of formal consent Bureaucracy. Arrangements like video conferencing,e-governance,direct participation could be seen providing the necessary space to will of the people in discharge of functions. Under New Public Management Osborne and Gabler had considered bureaucrats in the role of public manager and has asked them to play as facilitators. Bureaucracy has been seen in a catalytic role for the same. Democratic components in the governance,community owned government are prescribed. Controls have been suggested to be pushed out of Bureaucracy and handed over to the people.

Bureaucracy and development are two components of development philosophy if seen from an overview seem to possess opposing values(ideas) as Bureaucracy represents static or orthodox and rigid values while Development advocates dynamic(moving) values. Bureaucracy viewed by the Weberian model and other theorists pertains to same routine,unchanged and repeated procedures that enable it to continue,achieve its pre-established goals and handle its problems like a system without being influenced by external factors. Development as a concept on the other hand is seen as a phenomenon influenced by the concept of change and is quick to adapt and adjust to changes coming in through both external as well as internal factors on the way to development. It is the administrative process evolved for developing countries. And in the developing countries till now Bureaucracy by shedding its Weberian character is the only neutral,biggest existing and stable machinery that can achieve and lead the way towards the process of development in the developing countries. Therefore in the context of developing countries Bureaucracy and development are complementary and inter dependant instead of being hostile to one another for the purpose of Development Administration. In order to sensitise the bureaucracy for development processes it is suggested to provide them training in attitudinal changes and incorporate dynamic and social values in them to know the requirement,preparation of strategy and implementation of programmes in the present ecological setting in order to uplift the socio-cultural and economic status of the country. Bureaucracy,apart from its own duties like development policy formulation and implementation as well as educating people about the policies has been suggested to utilise their specialist knowledge in order to play the role of a friend,facilitator,coordinator,guardian,philosopher and guide to the factors like market and civil societies as well as other instruments of development administration(as listed above under the same heading) in the process of development and the bureaucrats have been asked to patiently assist people in the same. Therefore,as one can understand now that overall evaluation and implementation of Development Administration programmes are carried out by the Bureaucracy playing the leading role in developing nations.

This post ends here.


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The next post on this blog will deal with:

Public Sector Undertakings:
Public sector in modern India; Forms of
Public Sector Undertakings; Problems of
autonomy, accountability and control; Impact
of liberalization and privatization.


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